Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together....

Many months ago I launched a project to remodel a small section of the lab known locally as the "Plaster Room". This slightly larger than closet sized subdivision of the lab space started life as a dark room, then became a general purpose/storage/yes, plaster room with a large restaurant type sink and sediment trap. Speaking of sediment traps, its probably about time to muck that thing out. But I digress.

My plan was to install a fume hood sorry, VENT hood that I rescued from the surplus warehouse way back in the fall (er, end of summer/ almost A COMPLETE FREAKING YEAR AGO!!!!!) My estimate request was submitted in early January, the work order in early April, and by the end of July it has finally come to pass. I suppose it could be worse. The original estimate came in at $6500 for installation, including a 20% contingency. Now that we are calling it a fume hood vent hood, hopefully the final cost will be down considerably. I eagerly await review of the itemized budget.

(Continued below the fold...)


After making a few tweaks to the original plan, namely coincidentally luckily having enough room to place the fume hood vent hood in line with the new counter instead of perpendicular to it against the window brilliantly planning all of the dimensions with 1/8" clearance on all sides, the cabinets are in, the hood is in and functioning, acid is finally properly stored (and segregated by compatibility!), and very soon an eyewash will be installed in the sink directly opposite the hood. After many months of frustration, I am finally almost through with this room!

P.S. I just noticed that the original sales pitch sketch was created on October 27 of last year, and the project was completed today, the 27 of July, a full nine months later! Spooky.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Taking a microscope in the field

"What the What?!!" you might be saying in response to the title of this post, but, no, really, I mean it.

And since I'm just back from 7 weeks in the field, a funeral, a little bit of personal travel, and trying to fit laundry in somewhere, a field related post seems to appropriate.

 Inspired by the Wild Heerbrugg Field Cover for the M5 and M11 microscopes, of which I can't find a single decent picture online, I put together a package to bring a newer, less complicated, but still decent Wild M3 stereo microscpe into less than lab conditions. Now, that could be a classroom, a fossil ID day, or a remote field site. At the recommendation of my friend Mike, and scope guy at Natural History Studio, I picked the M3 based on its minimum number of moving parts, ability to seal it up against dirt and debris, and small size.  While many different microscopes could be used, the choice of a Wild is a no-brainer, they are simply the best. Instead of the nifty hood, I opted for a slightly more protective and far larger Pelican hard case. The sacrifice of space allows room for all sorts of accessories and tools, including attachments like the photoport pictured at left, as well as airscribes, illumination, pinvises, etc. Since the two layers of foam lining allow the container to be customized as needed, the liners can even exchanged and outfitted for different projects.

For instance, one set could be cut out for the scope, photoport, camera, adapters, and maybe even a computer or netbook for microphotography during collections visits. Another option would be to add a lightweight and quiet air compressor to your kit, coil up some hose, scribes, and a regulator and stow those in the Pelican case for a self contained portable microprep workstation.

For some time I pondered the best way to light a scope in the middle of nowhere without a large power source, and after staring at a spare ringlight in the bottom of one of my crap drawers for a while, the idea to use a flashlight hit me.  I went to the hardware store and picked up a 100 lumen LED flashlight that runs on 4 AA batteries. The light at the focal plane can be focused by positioning the lightsource at a proper distance from the end of the fiber optic cable. To do this I drilled out a dowel rod to function as an adapter between the two, which creates a somewhat bright field in the case of intense ambient light (sunlight/interior), and sufficient lighting during dim conditions. This setup proved invaluable this field season during a period of limited time available for ID and cataloging before the trip back home.